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The Forgotten Side of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation

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By Fr. Robert H. Bissot
Pastor, St. Catherine, Ossineke; St. Gabriel, Black River; St. Anne, Harrisville; St. Raphael, Mikado

We are inclined to think of the sacraments as one way streets – what happens to us, how we are blessed and graced.

But there is another side to the sacraments. Their celebrations are great acts of praise and worship. Moreover, they publicly proclaim to the whole world what we believe about our God. For example, through Baptism we outwardly proclaim our belief that God is a God of love and so loves us that he adopts us as His sons and daughters.

Of all the sacraments and public worship, the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation most clearly and most powerfully proclaims to the whole world that God is a forgiving God, no matter what we have done.

Celebrating and rejoicing in the forgiving God is the whole purpose of his sacrament. Even when the sacrament is celebrated privately it is still a public act. True, we can -- and need -- to ask God’s pardon and praise, and thank him for his forgiveness in the secrecy of our heart. But it stays just there. No one sees it. No public praise is given to God. It is all “hush, hush.”

If, then, we truly love God, are truly grateful that God is the forgiving God and want him to be known, if we truly love others and want them to know God, why would we hesitate to celebrate this sacrament? To hesitate is to worry about self, being embarrassed or whatever, and we remain in our self-centeredness, the cause and root of all sin.